National Steak and Poultry, an Oklahoma-based company, has recalled nearly 2 million pounds of under-cooked, ready-to-eat chicken products due to bacterial concerns, the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection has announced.
The chicken products are sold as fully cooked and ready to heat and serve. The possible under-cooking of the concerned chicken products may result in the potential survival of dangerous bacterial pathogens in the products.
The recall includes a variety of ready-to-eat chicken products that were produced from August 20, 2016, through November 30, 2016, with the number “P-6010T” printed in the USDA mark of inspection. The recalled chicken products include boneless chicken cubes, chicken breast strips with rib meat and chicken breast fajita strips. A complete list of the recalled products can be found here.
The recalled chicken products were sold to restaurants, fast food chains, supermarkets and directly to customers throughout the country.
Class I recall
The announcement by the Oklahoma-based company expands a recall first issued on November 23, 2016. Then, nearly 17,500 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken parts were recalled for the same reason. The expansion of the recall was prompted by a complaint about under-cooked chicken meat from a food service customer on November 28.
The USDA has classified the recall as a Class I. A Class I recall is the most critical, and involves a potential health hazard situation where there is reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause severe adverse health consequences or even death.
So far, there have been no confirmed reports of illnesses related to the recalled chicken products, the USDA said. However, consumers who believe that they got sick after eating one of the contaminated products should contact a medical professional and file a complaint report.
Customers who have purchased any of the recalled products should throw them away immediately or return them to the place of purchase.
Foodborne bacteria that could lead to serious consequences
Speaking to Live Science, Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained that there are two bacterial pathogens most commonly linked to raw or under-cooked chicken meat, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
Both bacteria are common foodborne pathogens that could lead to serious consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, they can also cause infections that lead to long-term health problems such as arthritis. Furthermore, Chapman warned for yet another possible bacterial contaminant found in under-cooked or raw chicken meat, Listeria, which can grow at lower temperatures, including in your fridge.
Cooking any meat to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills harmful bacteria. Ready-to-eat products, however, pose a serious health risk, because consumers don’t always cook them to this temperature or handle them as if the products were uncooked.
“If I’m told that I don’t need to cook it, then I’m less likely to cook it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit [which kills bacteria], because it’s marketed to me as you don’t actually have to,” Chapman told Live Science. “If it looks like it’s ready to eat, I’m likely not going to handle it, as a consumer, as stringently, as I would a non-ready to eat meat product.”
Food recalls of processed items, such as ready-to-eat meats, are nothing new. The best way to protect your family from foodborne illnesses is to stay away from processed food and opt for fresh, homegrown food instead.